Saturday, October 24, 2015

Ellie's 9th Birthday

When I made the trip to Fort Wayne this year for Ellie's birthday I was very much surprised to lay first sight on my daughter in the back of a police car!  It was a wonderful trip but Emily’s parents were also visiting at the time and I feel bad I wasn’t able to spend more time with them.  We did have a great Italian dinner together and some drinks at a Whiskey Bar on Alberta before I was dropped off for the flight though!  Read on to see how my trip to visit Ellie went…

As usual I flew to Fort Wayne on a redeye flight late Friday night to make it there for her morning soccer game.  This year Nicolette and Ellie had moved out of their apartment into her mothers house for the winter to save money to hopefully buy their own house in the spring.  Wise Choice.  Unfortunately, with her parents still there before leaving for Florida for the winter (reason for her staying there), there was no room for me so instead I booked a hotel room at the nearby Comfort Suites and got a rental car from the airport when I arrived.  

When I landed I made it to the rental car and hotel by about 7:30am.  Thankfully, they weren't full and found a ready room for me to crash in.  It took a phone call and some begging from me with Ellie to let me sleep for an hour after my overnight flight.  This helped a bit but when I made it to the house they weren't there and within minutes Lucinda got a call that they had been in an accident.  Without any cars there it was lucky I had the rental so we jumped in and rushed over to the scene, to find Nicolette talking with a cop, Ellie in the backseat of a police car, and their Subaru Forester in the middle of the intersection with it's front left tire and side caved in from where a truck had side swiped it.

Ellie was pretty upset by the whole ordeal but was super happy to see me.  I of course made the whole thing into a joke with her about her being some sort of criminal and was probably driving the car herself.. etc etc, urging her to forget about the actual event and start thinking of how to tell a cool story about it to her friends, which worked perfectly and I got to hear her tell the story a bunch of times happily throughout the weekend.  I'm pretty sure it was the truck driver's fault for going through the intersection without stopping or looking properly and it was clear Nicolette did all she could to avoid a worse impact.

Despite the setback of the accident I was able to get her back to the house and changed for her soccer game which I took her to while Nicolette laid down with a sore neck (whiplash) from the accident.  I think this might be the 4th year I've watched her play soccer and I'm so glad that she's involved in such a great sport!  Better yet, she plays stopper which is the same position I played in Varsity Soccer when I was younger.  

After her soccer game we wandered over to a nearby playground where she led me through all the obstacles.  For a 9 year old she is incredibly strong!  She was swinging and jumping and her pulling herself up things with ease as her old man was grunting and swinging himself around things trying not to break his back!  I'm pretty sure the playground had a religious theme to it which I as usual tried to deflect as she pushed all of it on me.  

For dinner Ellie and I headed out for dinner at Casa Ristorante to get some of Ellie's favorite meatballs!  Despite being in the middle of the country I ordered the seafood pasta as I was starving and it was actually pretty good.  Ellie insisted I also try a meatball which was yummy too.  Ellie of course told our waitress about her crazy car accident and believe it or not, the waitresses boyfriend could have been one of the responders to the accident!  Small town USA...After dinner I promised Ellie some frozen yogurt but after driving far out of the way to find the store no longer there we opted for some milk shakes instead.

That night we went to a huge backyard barn party at one of her friends houses in the countryside.  He had a wonderfully landscaped backyard complete with minibar, firepit, and even a stage where a local band was set up and playing.  I guess this was an annual event but this years theme was Back to the Future and many of the people were dressed up like Marty McFly.  Of course Ellie got up on stage at one point and of course everyone sang happy birthday to her!  

There were hayrides for the kids around the neighborhood and one of the biggest bonfires I'd ever seen.  They were literally throwing MULTIPLE couches on top of the fire which I felt was dangerously close to nearby trees but I forget that Fort Wayne probably doesn't have the same fire dangers as the Pacific Northwest.  The owner was super nice obviously cared about Ellie and Nicolette.  Nicolette was no longer dating the guy I had seen her with last year (the Mischa lookalike) but I swore I saw a guy kiss her at the party so who knows what is going on!  Ellie had a great time and I definitely enjoyed the "Not your Father's Rootbeer" they had cooled for guests.   Around 8 or 9pm we left the party and I thankfully convinced Ellie to let me go back to the hotel alone to get a full night's rest, with the promise that she could stay over with me on Sunday.

On Sunday morning I actually attended church for the first time in over half a decade (besides weddings).  The church was huge, more like a massive auditorium or concert venue then the small buildings I grew up going to in Upstate New York.  There was a full band on stage and massive screens for videos, bible verses and song text.  It was definitely a more lively social gathering than I remembered from childhood.  I can see how it could be very attractive to people who are on the fence in their beliefs.  

But, to me I see no more sense worshipping the story of the bible then I do worshipping the story of Marvel's Iron Man.  Both good stories, both Jesus and Iron Man save people and do good in the world, but alas, both aren't real.  There are many good things about organized religion but nearly as many bad things as well.  I'm less upset about her being raised to believe the earth is only 2,000 years old than I am that her non-believer father is going to burn in hell when he dies.  No child be forced to grow up worrying that will happen to their dad.  It is wrong and unfortunately there is nothing I can do.

After church we headed back to the house to get ready for Ellie's 9th birthday party which had a mustache theme this year (odd one Ellie...).   I had bought her a bunch of stuff on Amazon for her halloween costume including boots, a cowboy hat, badge, and some American Girl accessories she wanted but the hit of her party was definitely the giant bubble making kit my mom sent her.  She and her friends had a wonderful time in the backyard making giant bubbles with the kit I helped set up.  

Nicolette always does a wonderful job setting up a great birthday party for her and this was no different.  There were decorations, cake, prize bags and even a mustache piƱata that no one could break, but I fixed that problem quickly :).  I also got corned by the kids at the hammock where they insisted I kept swinging them despite me dumping them out a few times on the soft pine needles below for fun! 

After the children had all left Ellie and I took off to grab some dinner at Applebee's before heading to the hotel.  She is so adorable to be around and so talkative with everyone that, as usual, the waitress fell in love with her!  When I wanted to order a shrimp appetizer for us she told me that I couldn't order it.  Laughing I told her I found it funny she thought she could tell her dad what to do or not to do.... and ordered them anyway.  

I tend to operate a little differently than Nicolette with her.  Not in a mean way whatsoever, just in way that lets her know that she can't boss me around or get her way with me.. and in a way that actually gets her giggling about it.  The year before she flew into a late night scary and crazy tantrum slamming doors and huffing about, clearly wanting her way.  I simply said, if this is the way you want to spend the little time you have with me when I visit, ok... but I'm going to ignore you until you act your age and can calm down and talk calmly with me.  15 minutes later she was asleep.  Each year she gets older and gains more control of her emotions which is fascinating to observe.  No tantrums this year, and giggles instead of tears when I told her she couldn't boss her old dad around ;)

That night she curled up in bed next to me and we watched Jurassic World which is PG-13.  I knew it was pushing it for her a little bit but she had me next to her for the scary scenes and her cute rationalization that none of it is real because "only God can create dinosaurs" was adorable.  Now that I think about it, I probably just reinforced in her brain that it is totally possible humans and dinosaurs existed together after the great flood 2000 years ago... oh boy....

Because I had helped Ellie through all her homework problems on Sunday (thoroughly impressing John with my patience doing so) Nicolette allowed her to stay home with me on Monday.  So, after breakfast in the hotel lobby we headed to the Pool for her to show off to me her swimming skills going from one end of the pool to the other.  Pretty good, pretty good.. just needs to work on comfort level going underwater though.  I of course filmed it all as she adores being on camera ;)

That afternoon she finally got to show me her surprise... that she knew how to ride her bike!!!! I was super upset going into this trip that I had bought her a really expensive kids bike the year before and she still didn't know how to ride it... I was under the assumption that nobody was taking her out as she never talked about it.  Sneeky little girl.... apparently she had gone out a few times and being a bit taller got more comfortable with the bike.  

So, we went out on a bike adventure for the afternoon around the neighborhood and then down a bike path to a big playground.  She rides quite well with the occasional scary wobble.  I think I blew her mind a little bit when I taught her how to use the shifters properly and how to go "off road" with the shocks on her bike :).  We spent a good amount of time at the park pretending the ground was lava and making it all the way through all the obstacles several times before going back to the house to check out her Orbeez Spa set I had bought her for her birthday.  

When her mom got home around 5pm I had leave to make my 6:30 flight on time.  Ellie of course broke into tears which is always heart-wrenching for me.  It's been tough because of her age but as she approaches 10 years old and after I hope to have her come out and visit Emily and I more often.  It was a wonderful visit and I of course look forward to seeing her again next summer when she comes out with grandma to visit us.  

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